Elder homelessness has existed “under the radar” of many homelessness programs and funding sources. It is a complex problem with distinct challenges for which “traditional” approaches to ending homelessness such as job training and asset development are not applicable. Managing medications, maintaining a healthy diet, having regular access to physical and mental care, and developing social networks are just some of the elements of aging that are difficult for elders to manage when they don’t have a home. Think about all the things we do for our aging parents or grandparents, and imagine the people who are walking Boston’s streets, whom you might bump into, who (through no fault of their own) are not privileged enough to have safe homes or loving families. Here at Hearth, we work hard to ensure that homelessness is not the only outcome for elders with limited resources and personal difficulties. Hearth began as in 1991 as the committee to end elder homelessness. We run our own housing and supported services (7 sites, 136 units), but the main way to end elder homelessness is through outreach.
Hearth, Inc .
Recognizing and addressing the unique
needs of Boston’s rapidly growing older
adult homeless population and those at
risk of homelessness
Massachusetts's Aging Population Source: U.S Census Bureau, Population Division, Interim State Population Project, 2005 Over the next 20 years, Massachusetts population growth will occur almost entirely in the 60+ age groups Change in population 2010 - 2030
Older Adult Homelessness is Growing Sources: HUD’s 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, July 2009 & Boston Homeless Census Report 12/2008 The nation’s sheltered homeless population over a year’s time (2007-2008) included approximately 1,092,600 individuals (68%) and 516,700 persons in families (32%). Nationally, between 2007 and 2008 the number of individuals in shelter was down by 3.7%, but age 51+ was up by 4.5%. Approximately one third of Boston’s homeless adult shelter population is over 50 years old .
People in their fifties who have chronic health problems
Our grandparents, our aging parents, and our uncles and aunts who may suffer from mental illness, addictions or poverty
Older adults living on fixed incomes
People in their fifties who experience job loss and prolonged unemployment
For many elders, a “trigger event” or “transition” may precede their homelessness; these events include widowhood, divorce, domestic violence, eviction and the declining health or death of the family member who cared for them
Homelessness often leads to unsafe and unsanitary living environments. These conditions not only aggravate older adults’ pre-existing health problems but may also interfere with effective treatment of their diseases.
Surveys of homeless older adults reveal that more 50% have serious medical problems. In fact, in a recent study, 61% of Hearth’s survey participants have active medical problems and 51% are living with chronic pain.
Most are post-employment.
Needs will tend to increase with time.
Homeless older adults face challenges that are very different from those experienced by younger adults or families. For seniors, the ravages of homelessness can accelerate and magnify the effects of aging, including:
• increased physical frailty
• chronic disease
• impaired mental function
• loneliness and isolation
The Hearth Model Founded in 1991, Hearth partners with many organizations serving the homeless on a targeted approach for older adults age 50 and over. Hearth Housing & Services 7 sites, 137 units (additional 59 units under construction) Hearth Outreach 1,100 elders placed 3,000 served (capacity to help 350 elders annually)
The cost of Hearth housing is at most one-half the cost of institutional alternatives such as long term care or shelter beds.
There are high costs associated with leaving elders in shelter or on the street which include costs such as increased use of emergency medical care for routine care.
At over $58,000 a year on average in Massachusetts for assisted living and $107,000 for nursing home care, assisted living is generally unavailable to most poor and minority elders.
At Ruggles, Hearth is able to provide access to this high level of care for Boston’s very low income, frail elders who otherwise would be living in nursing homes on Medicaid’s tab.
Supportive Housing Makes Sense
Hearth Outreach Program Helping those who Hearth can’t house The demand for Hearth housing is high and availability is limited. The Hearth Outreach Program enables Hearth to assist homeless elders in locating alternative affordable housing opportunities and the social services critical to their long term housing success. food income insurance health care mental health substance abuse financial assistance legal socialization stress management crisis services food income insurance health care mental health HOUSING SEARCH and CASE MANAGEMENT PLACEMENT and STABILIZATION HEARTH OUTREACH OPERATING MODEL CONNECTION Homeless Elders 50+ Safe, Affordable Permanent Housing
Housing with integrated supportive services leads to good outcomes for elders who have struggled with the consequences of poverty and homelessness.
95% of Hearth’s survey respondents report a visit with a primary medical care provider within the previous six months, demonstrating Hearth’s success in forging connections between its elder residents and critically important community-based care.
Access to safe, affordable housing and a supportive living environment promotes stability, wellness, and life satisfaction among formerly homeless older adults.
Many of those participating in a recent Hearth survey reported positive assessments of their health and well-being as residents of Hearth’s housing, despite the numerous and serious health challenges they experience:
68% of respondents rate their health (including physical, emotional, and mental health) as either good, very good, or excellent.
70% of respondents report being either satisfied or very satisfied with their lives, in general
78% of respondents express satisfaction with their living environments, with an additional 10% expressing neither satisfaction nor dissatisfaction.
Contact Information May Shields RN, MSN [email_address] T: 617 369 1573 W: www.hearth-home.org Hearth, Inc. 1640 Washington Street Boston, MA 02118